Media Influence on Teen Pregnancy
Teen pregnancy is not a foreign concept in this country, (or in the world, for that matter) but in the 21st century, teen pregnancy has become the subject of countless media outlets and a prevalent force in our lives. However, the question is, is all the media attention teen mothers are getting helpful or hurtful to the effort of reducing teen pregnancies? Many have argued both sides of the subject, but to begin, we need to look at some facts:
- Despite the all media coverage the subject is suddenly getting, teen birth rates in the U.S. are actually at an all-time low, dropping 9% from 2009-2010, which is actually a 37% drop from the year 1991. (CNN Health)
- About 820,000 teenagers get pregnant every year, which means around 34% of teenagers have at least one pregnancy before they turn 20. (Teen Help)
- 80% of teen pregnancies are unintentional. (Teen Help)
- The main rise in the teen pregnancy rate is among girls younger than 15 years old. (Teen Help)
- The U.S. has twice the teen pregnancy rate as Canada. (Teen Help)
- Japan’s teen pregnancy rate is eight times lower the United States. (Teen Help)
- In 2010, 79% of girls and 67% of boys polled (12-19 years old) said that seeing characters or reality stars going through teen pregnancy makes them think more about their own risk of getting pregnant or causing a pregnancy and how to avoid it. (Disabled World)
Of course, as many agree, there is a big difference between what teens say and what they do. The statistics show that teen pregnancy rates are on the decline. But should we credit the media with these promising new statistics? Should we credit better sex education in schools?
The most popular media outlet dealing with teen pregnancy is, without a doubt, MTV’s “16 and Pregnant,” and a close second is its continuation show, “Teen Mom.” Lauren Dolgen, the creator behind both of the controversial shows, wrote an article for CNN in 2011 entitled “Why I created MTV’s ’16 and Pregnant,’” in which she explained her story of stumbling across some surprising statistics regarding teen pregnancy that came out around the time that teen TV star Jamie Lynn Spears announced that she was pregnant. Dolgen says that “the U.S. has the highest rates of teen pregnancy and teen birth in the fully developed world — but at that time, no one was really talking about the harsh reality these young women were facing.” She went on to say that she created the shows because they “tell the honest, unpleasant truth of teen pregnancy in America… It’s not a fairy tale where every girl ends up with the American dream…”
Dolgen is adamant about making young girls realize the gravity of getting pregnant at such as young age, but were her intentions lost at the show’s network? Melissa Henson, whom also wrote an article for CNN concerning the shows, states that the show is indeed “glamorizing” teen pregnancy. She asserts that “16 and Pregnant” is bringing the wrong kind of attention to the issue because the girls on the show have become celebrities in their own right, even managing to grace the cover of nearly every popular U.S. magazine. Another point Henson makes is that “16 and Pregnant” is more negative than positive because it “doesn’t air on Discovery Health or any of the myriad of cable channels that might have taken a more sober approach to such an important public health and welfare issue. No, it airs on MTV.” Many agree with Henson, saying that MTV is meant for entertaining television, and that is how most teens see it, and that the full weight of the issue is not easily felt because the network isn’t necessarily popular for “hard-hitting” shows.
Ultimately, teens have to make decisions regarding sex whether the media shines a light on the subject or not. It is up to parents to maintain an open dialogue with their teens in order to answer any questions they may have, and hopefully, lead them to make informed and smart decisions about their sex lives. In the end, no amount of public attention or social media should have more of an effect on your teens’ decisions than you do.
Is the media glamorizing teen pregnancy? Is it helping to educate teens on the reality of being pregnant? Tell us what you think!